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GIANT Pencil Made From CORN!?

11.11 Single Day
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Science Matters: www.4-H.org/Bayer

Big shout out to Bayer 4H Council for partnering with us on this video!

Note: The vast majority of corn is for feed or fuel, not food for people https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sweet-corn-vs-field-corn_n_596f6718e4b0a03aba868f75

It’s back to school time and while this year you may be doing some more online learning, one thing that will never change… the need for pencils! Despite the name “leaded pencil” there is in fact no lead in pencils! Pencil lead is actually made of graphite mixed with clay which is then compressed into thin rods. This pencil “lead” is then glued into woodblocks that gets carved down into pencils. The confusion for calling it lead actually came from the early 1500’s when people thought there was lead in the raw ingredient graphite. So this got me thinking, would it be possible to make our own pencils, and if we could… could we make a GIANT PENCIL that actually works? To start we first need something that can replicate graphite. Graphite is nothing more than elemental carbon in a hexagonal crystalline structure, similar to diamonds which are also pure carbon but have a different arrangement for their crystal structure… and while we can’t draw with diamonds we can create another form of carbon that does draw very well and that is charcoal! So here’s how we made our charcoal. In honor of agricultural science and the Bayer 4H Council we used corn to start with. We then put the corn into paint cans with a vent hole at the top. After that we put the cans in a regular open face fire pit. As the cans heat up with low access to oxygen the vent up top allows the corn to off-gas. This lets water, methane, hydrogen and tar out of the corn and leaves behind charcoal which is close to pure carbon. We made our giant pencil by turning a 4x4X8 into an octogonal shape. We then made a tube in the pencil rod as far as the drill bit will allow us to go. Next, we painted the pencil yellow (one primer coat, then 2 yellow coats)

For our pencil lead formula we did the following:
-The first step is grinding up our charcoal into a fine powder in a blender (400 grams).
-Then we mixed a 50/50 mixture of bentonite to kaolin clay, we're gonna refer to this as the just clay from here. (200g/200g)
- Next we're gonna add the clay mixture to the charcoal in a 2:1 ration (2 parts charcoal, one part clay...400 g charcoal/200g clay mix)
-600g char/clay mix
-600g melted paraffin wax

We made our eraser from a coffee can and craft rubber glued together

Okay so we went from corn carbon to charcoal to a mixture replicating graphite pencil lead. Now while this was a very unique carbon transformation, the transformation from one form of carbon to another is actually quite common and is going on all around us, all the time. Let’s take the carbon in the corn for example. The carbon in the corn was obtained through CO2 in the atmosphere during the plants photosynthetic process. From here organisms (like us) consume the corn which ends up in the organism's bodies. These same organisms then release some of this carbon through respiration as CO2 back into the atmosphere. Now this cycle functions normally when the creatures on earth are consuming and replacing the same amount of carbon in equal amounts. However, with the advancement of technology like cars, planes, and industrial energy production this has led to the use of fossil fuels such as combusting coal and gas. The result is that the amount of CO2 has risen faster than the earth can consume it. Too much CO2 in the atmosphere can lead to higher global temperatures equating to disastrous ecological consequences...not awesome. Now here’s the good news, there are ways to offset this CO2 imbalance and one of those methods is called carbon sequestering which can be done through certain agricultural practices. Bayer is working to help farmers apply these sustainable practices. They're doing this by reducing tillage to help sequester carbon in the soil, and ensuring the more precise use of crop protection and fertilizer through product innovation and digital tools to increase efficiency. Since digital tools monitor the soil composition, farmers can actively track their progress in sequestering carbon in the soil for more productive crops and a healthier planet!

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#cornpencil #giantpencil #sciencematters

Production Team:
Writer/Producer: Nick Uhas
DP: Kaleb Seaton, Griffin Louis
Best Girl: Opal Roo (the dog)
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